If you want to learn how to make Indian restaurant curries at home this is the place to start. Indian restaurant curry base or base gravy is the foundation of the whole thing. Get this figured out and you are on your way to making better  curries than you can buy.

Indian restaurants cook a whack of different curries to order. Ever wonder how they do it? For sure they don’t have 25 curries simmering away in the kitchen. Nobody can run a restaurant like that. They have a secret. Indian restaurant curry base.

It’s cooked to order and it’s done using curry base. Curry base is at the heart of every Indian restaurant kitchen. Giant pots of it simmering away. Once I heard about it I started asking waiters. I met kitchen staff. I even talked about it with a chef or two. I was on the inside. Now you are too…

Never heard of curry base? Not surprising. For the longest time it was a closely guarded secret. Even now, Indian restaurant curry base recipes are carefully guarded secrets. A hint of carrot – ooohhhh. A bit of cabbage – aaahhh. A green pepper – ssshhhh. But that’s how it’s done.

Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry

It’s a bit ridiculous. In it’s simplest form it’s just a lot of boiled onions with some spices and oil. Seriously. Cook it up and it tastes like a weak curry onion soup. Nothing to it. Not particularly tasty.


Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry


But when you layer the Indian restaurant technique on top it’s magic. Something wonderful happens to that insipid onion soup. It caramelizes. The depth of flavour is – well it’s restaurant quality.

It’s not hard. It’s just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. Chop some onions. Add some water and some seasoning and boil. Puree. Boil some more. Done.

You can get a quick lesson on cooking Indian restaurant curry here.

You use this base in recipes like Indian restaurant madras, lamb curry, jalfrezi or chicken tikka masala. Look around – there are lots of Indian restaurant curry recipes here.

One thing to note. Indian restaurant curries are big on oil. This recipe is about as low as you can go on the oil. Don’t use less. It just won’t work. Indian restaurant curry is a lot of things but low calorie it is not.

If you want to cook Indian restaurant style curries this the first step. The real deal.

indian restaurant curry base gravy in a white bowl from above.

4.93 from 13 votes
Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry
indian restaurant curry base
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs
Total Time
2 hrs 15 mins
Indian restaurant curry base is the foundation for restaurant style curry. It's what makes Indian restaurant curry what it is.
Course: side
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 12
  • 8 large onions - about 2.5 lbs peeled weight
  • 6-8 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12-15 fresh cilantro stalks with leaves - roots removed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 12 cups boiling water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes - one small can
Step 1
  1. Bring the water to a boil (a kettle works well for this).
  2. Quarter the onions and then break them apart into petals (roughly - two or three petals per quarter)
  3. Combine all ingredients except tomatoes, bring to a gentle boil and simmer, loosely covered, for one hour. Use a big pot!
  4. Add tomatoes, stir and simmer an additional 20 minutes
  5. Let cool slightly. Blend to smooth consistency. Make sure you remove the centre cap from the blender lid and cover the hole with a cloth or you will be cleaning the ceiling. Alternately you can use an immersion blender.
Step 2
  1. Wipe out the pot and return pureed curry base and simmer until the oil separates out - this can take an hour or more. Stir the oil back into the base. At this point you can portion out the base into 2 cup portions and freeze if desired.
Recipe Notes

If you don't want to wait an hour or more during step 2, you can safely stop after 30 minutes - it's not the end of the world.

Don't worry if you get a bit of "scum" on the surface. Just mix it back in.

This recipe makes enough for 10-12 curries (restaurant size portions)

Use within a week or freeze in 2 cup portions (one curry worth)



47 thoughts on “indian restaurant curry base

  1. Fantastic post. This will be going into my little recipe book. I would love to do more Indian style curries and I’m excited you have a selection for me to pick from. Do you have any suggestions on what spices to layer on top of this curry base?

    • Joyce – this is the first in a series of blogs on how to cook real Indian restaurant curry (well second I guess as I posted garlic ginger paste recently). In the coming weeks I will publish posts on spice mixes, techniques and some restaurant favourite curry recipes.

    • Made this yesterday. Used 2.5 lb onions which were rather large. The base has a bitter overpowering onion taste and I do not know whether it is just overgrown strong onion or what. Help

      • I can’t think of anything other than the onions. If you simmered the onions until they were mushy they should be quite mild in flavour. The curry base should taste like a quite mild curry flavoured onion soup. Certainly it should not be bitter at all. I’m sorry I can’t be more help. I’ve never had a hint of bitter and I make this recipe often.

  2. Great post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I was wondering how long can the curry base sit in the freezer before use it? And if I can cut the recipe in half, since I don’t plan to make 12 curries within a week?

    • You are very welcome. Thank you for reading it. I think you could halve the recipe without any problem. In a freezer, I think it would probably last for a couple months although I never seem to manage to keep it around that long.

    • Yes, absolutely. I do that sometimes. Cut the initial cooking time to about 45 minutes but then simmer the pureed base as in the directions.

  3. Wow this is really good I made some last night to add to some chicken that I had previously cooked and it really brought it back to life. Thank you so much for this recipe.

    • I’m glad you liked it. If you have a chance, check out the Indian restaurant curry at home post and try your hand at a curry or two.

  4. Hi,
    I made the curry base was very good
    Can I dublie the recipes or triple it.
    And do u have nice recipe for chicken korma
    Looking forward to her from you

  5. First and foremost, thank you so much for enlightening us with this recipe!! I’m so excited to finally cook REAL Indian food at home! Those “homestyle” recipes taste nothing like what you get in a restaurant. However, when you’re boiling this curry base, is the pot covered or uncovered? Each time? I’m assuming uncovered, because you want it to concentrate, but that’s one of my little pet peeves with blog recipes, when details like this aren’t specified. Also, I’d like to put in a request for a saag curry recipe – saag’s my favorite, and I always order it at Indian restaurants, usually with lamb. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Thank you. I hope you try lots of recipes restaurant style. It’s fun once you figure it out. It’s uncovered but loosely covered would do as well. Concentrated isn’t so important here and it’s a simmer so you won’t reduce much in any case. I’m always careful to say covered or loosely covered when that’s what I mean. I will put a saag recipe on the list. I like it too!

    • Glad you found it. Took me years to figure out what I was searching for. Lots of curry recipes on the blog once you get your base made.

    • Mickey – I’m not from London but Plentiful Foods NW1 looks like a good candidate and the reviews are quite favourable.

  6. I am Indian and managed to replicate my mother’s food which for me is great but I wanted to take it to the next level. The curry base by itself tastes amazing which is funny, can’t wait to try a few recipes with it. I was wondering can I substitute fish/prawns for the meats? Thank you!

    • Jay – I think you will be happy! You can use fish or prawns but I would not pre-cook them. Just poach them in the curry. Add them when the recipe tells you to add the meat and simmer gently until done.

  7. I made this recently and we liked it so much now making bigger second batch to freeze. Used it for the base of South Indian garlic chilli chicken my husband said was almost as good as his favourite take away. Having the base made it easier to prepare curry in a short time. Great recipe thanks

    • Lyne, freezing it in curry size portions is a great idea. Do that and you are ready for a curry at a moments notice. That’s the beauty of this.

  8. I have worked my way through every curry over the past few months and i can honestly say me and my hubby have enjoyed every single one of them ..u are brilliant!! ..x

  9. Thank you! You explain well and I’ve tried some recipes and it works! Beautiful food and happy each time. Much appreciated 🙂

  10. Hi there love the recipe, i’m not too sure if i’ve done something wrong! I’ve ended up with 4 boxes for full of 2 cup portions.


    • Sam – are you saying you have ended up with a total of 8 cups of base. Sounds like too much water evaporated. Add water until you get to a soup like texture. You should have at least 8 portions. You don’t want your base too concentrated because it will make your curries too thick. If you’ve already frozen them you can dilute them when you thaw them out…

  11. Making this right now, and so excited to try making curries at home! Hubby & I LOVE curry, but we’re not anywhere near an Indian restaurant. It’s over an hour drive time, round trip. I have high hopes for this, looking through all the recipes there are to try.

    THANK YOU so very much for posting all of this. We’re ready to cook it all, plus some! :-D. I’ll go and look..I’ve forgotten if I’ve seen it, but if you don’t have a recipe for Malai Kofta, I’d love one.

    • Awesome. There is a pretty good list of curries up on glebekitchen and I’m adding more all the time. I don’t have one for malai kofta yet but I will add it to the list!

  12. 2 questions:

    1. Following on from the advice you gave lyne above (about diluting her curry base before she used it as you thought she has evaporated it down too much) could you therefore intentionally make the base with half the water to make it twice as concentrated and then use 1 cup per curry instead of 2. Purely to reduce the volume of space it would take up in my freezer…

    2. I know you said the 1 cup of oil is the minimum. What is the reason for that? Flavour, consistency,…? I am really trying to eat low fat (which is how I came to look for curry recipies from scratch rather than pre-made. Have you experimented with less oil? If so what were the results?

    • I have never tried making concentrated curry base. For sure if you do, you will need to dilute it back to the thin soupy consistency before you make the curry. When you are making restaurant style curry the high heat help is critical to the flavour (it’s maillard reaction I believe) and if you start with a concentrated base it will get way too thick.

      Indian restaurant style curry is high fat. Period. It’s in the base. It’s in the pan when you are cooking the final curry. There’s really no getting around it.

      There are quite a few homestyle curries on this blog. They are much lower fat but still not what I would call diet food. The lemon coriander chicken curry is pretty lean. So is the simple chicken curry. The lentil and chickpea curries aren’t bad either. Hope this helps.

  13. Best site I’ve found. Makes a change not to be baffled by Indian cooking methods any more. Thanks for your time and effort. Making the curry base tomorrow, looking forward to trying some of your recipes. Keep up the good work. Phil.

  14. Awesome sauce! This is dope. I just need to get someone to cut the onions for me because it makes me wet(my eyes). And then how do I make the actual dish with their base? It would be helpful to know.

    • First step is to read the primer on how to make Indian restaurant style curries. There’s a link in the text of this post. After that all the recipes that say “Indian restaurant” style on glebekitchen use this base. There are lots to choose from and more coming all the time.

  15. Hi all.could you please give me the know hòw to do a balti keema.i had an illness in my throat a while ago,unfortunately from then I have to have things super mild,haven’t had an indian in year’s .ive been reading all the posts,mouth watering..please help

    • I’m sorry to hear that. Hope you are on the mend. I’m afraid I don’t have a balti keema recipe on the blog yet. There is a keema matar recipe here. If you left the peas out it would make for a simple and not too spicy keema.

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